The beginnings of contemporary Textile Art: Pioneering artist in USA

Textiles are a field that developed in parallel with mankind and human language. It is also indicative that the words "textiles" and "text" seem to share the shame etymology. However, it was until the Arts & Crafts movement and Art Nouveau period that textiles begun to get noticed by art critics and artists. Until then, textiles were either a feminine craft or in the case of tapestries and wall hangings, textiles were a flexible surface for transferring designs of established painters. Later, the Russian revolution and the Bauhaus movement by turning the focus into functional objects, influenced many artists to design textiles, costumes and tapestries and explore traditional techniques such as knitting, knotting, weaving and stitching. 

"Architects, sculptors, painters, we must all get back to craft! ... The artist is a heightened manifestation of the craftsman. ... Let us form ... a new guild of craftsmen without the class divisions that set out to raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists!"
Walter Gropius

The Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architecture trends in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel as many of the artists involved fled, or were exiled by, the Nazi regime. Especially in USA the field in that period was more that fertile for all kinds of experimentations in art. 

First american contemporary artist, which started working with fibers and textiles. 
  • Claire Zeisler (1903-1991) was an American artist, who expanded the expressive qualities of knotted and braided threads, making large-scale freestanding sculptures in this medium. Zeisler's non-functional structures were constructed using traditional weaving and off the loom techniques such as square knotting, wrapping, and stitching. According to the artist, working with fibers meant a new freedom although her work had references to the ancient Peruvian art. The evolution of her work from flat weavings on the loom to freestanding constructions of fiber is, in itself, a representation of fiber art's definitive move from utilitarian craft to the realm of fine art. 
Claire Zeisler, red, textile art, textile sculpture, 3d textiles,
"Red Preview by Claire Zeisler" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
  • Lenore Tawney (1907-2007) was also an american artist who departed from sculpture and became an influential figure in the development of fiber art. Tawney's introduction to the tenets of the German Bauhaus school and the artistic avant garde began in 1946 when she attended Lazlo Moholy- Nagy's Chicago Institute of Design. She studied weaving with Marli Ehrman. Together with Clare Zeisler, Sheila Hicks Alice Adams and Dorian Zachai, she exhibited in 1964 in a show titled "Woven Forms", organized by the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York.
three dimension fiber art, three dimension textile art
The King I, 1962  / Linen; 148 x 31 / Image source:
  • Sheila Hicks is an american artist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1964. Prior to that she lived in Mexico. As a fiber artist Sheika Hicks blurs the boundary between painting and sculpture with her vibrant woven and textile works. 
  • Jack Lenor Larsen (1927-) is a textile designer, author and collector and promoter of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship in all its forms. Since the 1950s he has designed thousands of fabric patterns and textiles, many associated with the modernist architecture and furnishings popular with post-1945 American consumers. Jack Lenor Larsen together with Mildred Constantine organized the exhibition "Wall Hanging" in 1969. 
  • Alice Adams (born in 1930) in an american artist known for her sculpture and site-specific land art in the 1970s. Her earlier work in tapestry and woven forms was important in the American fiber art movement. After completing her studies in Aubusson, Adams returned to New York bringing with her a tapestry loom to weave her own designs. However, her practice began to depart from traditional tapestry technique and gradually started developing surface articulation and adding materials like rope, sisal, twine and found objects to the traditional wool and cotton surface. In 1963 Adams began using tarred rope, chain link fence and steel cable in sculpture. She discovered various knotting, looped structures used in sailor's knots and techniques for covering ship's railing, but enlarged the scale and the materials traditionally used. 



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